10 October, 2007

Palestine: Armed Struggle v. Mass Resistance

The fundamental problem with openDemocracy is that reading long articles about anything on a screen is a complete pain, regardless of how interesting they are. Nevertheless, they publish much that is worth reading, for all that I would rather read it in a print periodical. One interesting piece is an article by Maria Stephan on proposals within Palestinian society to move the national struggle from the vanguardist mode of lethal violence to one of mass struggle based around collective action and the use of non-lethal force. She points out the obvious - that these methods yielded real dividends during Intifada 1, while the elitist violence of the al-Aqsa Intifada have gained dick-all. She does, however, underestimate the problems associated with a transition to non-violent mass struggle. One factor seriously discrediting this new idea is its advocates, who seem mainly to be those associated with President Mahmud Abbas and the illegal government of Salam Fayyad; their credibility as advocates of the Palestinian cause is rather limited, given the fond opinions that the USA and Israel seem to have of them. The other problem is that non-violent mass struggle is very difficult, requiring a level of organisational ability that might not be possessed by a Palestinian society wracked by years of Israeli repression. The occupiers' willingness to use lethal force against stone throwers and demonstrators played a major part in pushing the al-Aqsa Intifada away from mass action to elitist violence, and any attempt to move in that direction could easily provoke a similar response.

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